Houston Local 341 Wins Landmark Ruling Affirming Collective Bargaining

May 7 • 2021

An appeals court in Texas has upheld voter-approved collective bargaining rights for Houston’s fire fighters, a landmark victory for labor in the Lone Star state and a stinging rebuke for anti-fire fighter Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The Court of Appeals in Texas affirmed a lower court ruling won by Houston Local 341, repeatedly dismissing the city’s arguments. The ruling compels the City of Houston to pay the legal costs for Local 341 in this two-year battle over the rights and benefits of Houston’s 4,000 professional fire fighters.

“Hard work and strong leadership paid off in Houston and I am so proud of what Local 341 has achieved with this ruling,” says General President Ed Kelly. “When we stick together, and we fight together, we win.”

Mayor Turner has waged a relentless effort to overturn Local 341’s voter-approved collective bargaining rights, while still claiming an interest in reaching a contract agreement with Houston fire fighters, who have not seen a raise in more than a decade.

“We are grateful for this ruling. It should be a signal for the mayor to end the vindictive, taxpayer-funded legal campaign against Houston fire fighters and our families,” says Local 341 President Marty Lancton. “This ruling provides the city with an opportunity to reverse course and resolve our disputes.”

Texas voters in 2003 approved a referendum granting collective bargaining rights for fire fighters. Until Turner took office in 2016, Houston Local 341 had successfully negotiated with the city. Now in his second mayoral term, Turner remains the only Houston mayor to fail to reach a collectively bargained contract with fire fighters.

“If Mayor Turner, a Democrat, supports labor, he should end his attacks on fire fighter collective bargaining,” Lancton says.

“Since he became mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner has repeatedly turned his back on Houston’s fire fighters and demonstrated that he either does not understand the hard work we do, or simply doesn’t care,” says 11th District Vice President Sandy McGhee. “We are so thankful that Local 341 has never backed down.”

In 2015, Local 341 threw its support behind Turner, a Democrat, in his bid for mayor, based on his record as a member of the Texas House of Representatives supporting labor. Immediately upon taking office, however, Mayor Turner led an effort to cut fire fighter pensions and has fought pay raises for fire fighters ever since. In a further attack against Houston fire fighters, the City of Houston in January terminated President Lancton from the Houston Fire Department in retaliation for his union work.

General President Kelly and General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Lima went to Houston on their first day in office, April 9, to support President Lancton and all affiliate leaders facing attacks from elected officials.